Submission of an Interdisciplinary Major Proposal
The Interdisciplinary Major Program allows a student to go beyond the traditional bounds of any one department and create their own program of study. The proposed “department” should be constructed from the existing disciplines within the College and should hew to the spirit and history of a liberal-arts education at Amherst. The proposed program should have the breadth, depth and rigor of a regular major at the College.
An application for an Interdisciplinary Major should include the following elements.
- Justification The proposal should include the motivation for the proposed program, a justification that the thesis and program require the framework of an interdisciplinary department and cannot fit within an existing department, and an outline and discussion of the anticipated content of the thesis, making clear the important tenets, assumptions, methods and goals of the thesis.
- Courses The proposed major must contain at least six required courses beyond the introductory level. The proposal should describe the appropriateness of these courses for the proposed department, and how they serve as the educational basis for the writing of the thesis. It is imperative that the courses fit together in a coherent manner and taken together form an integrated program of study. The inclusion in the proposed major of courses taken during a study-away program should be done in close consultation with the primary advisor for the proposed program. It is expected that most of the coursework toward the proposed major would be completed at Amherst.
- Faculty Advisors The Interdisciplinary Major requires at least three members of the faculty to serve as advisors. One of these must be designated the Principal Advisor, who must submit a written statement that she/he/they reviewed the student’s written proposal, finds that it is truly interdisciplinary, agrees that the courses selected by the student form a solid foundation for the interdisciplinary program, and approves of the proposed thesis description and approach. The other advisors should also provide statements indicating that they have discussed the student’s program and are willing to serve as advisors to the program.
- Transcript The applicant should include an unofficial copy of their most recent transcript.
Submission Before submitting the proposal, the applicant should complete the Interdisciplinary Major checklist. The completed application should be sent to the faculty co-Chair of the Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors. Under ordinary circumstances, the proposal will be submitted during the first semester of the junior year and not later than the eighth week of the second junior semester. (For the class of 2023 and beyond, the deadline is moved to the seventh week of the first junior semester.)
After submission, the committee will review the application and in some cases interview the student. The applicant should be prepared to discuss all aspects of the interdisciplinary “department” and details of the thesis.